LANCASTER, Pa. —
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, health systems will likely require more healthcare providers. In preparation for the expected higher need for healthcare providers, the Pennsylvania Department of State took measures this week to aid the coronavirus response.
Certain administrative requirements will be waived for healthcare providers, including allowing physicians who have retired in the last five years to reactivate their medical licenses through the end of the year for free.
Dr. Ed Balaban of Ambler retired from his work as a hematologist and oncologist about a year and a half ago. He now plans to apply to reactivate his license and volunteer to treat COVID-19 patients. Though Balaban remained a trustee-at-large for the Pennsylvania Medical Society after his retirement, he never expected to be practicing medicine again so soon.
“I think it’s only right that I help and participate where I can,” he said. “Physicians, nurses, healthcare providers in general, I think it’s just part of our genetic makeup.”
Pennsylvania had 1,127 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 25. The number of infected is expected to double every two to three days.
“As case counts double you can see that it’s going to get very high, very fast,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a virtual coronavirus update. “The concern is that over the next number of weeks we are going to see a surge of new cases, and thus since approximately 10 percent of new cases require hospitalization, see a surge into our healthcare facilities.”
The Department of State’s waiver of certain administrative requirements applies to physicians, nurses and pharmacists.
“If the slope continues the way it is, then I suspect that a fair number of us will be needed,” Dr. Balaban said.
The relaxed measures also allow current healthcare workers, like a family care nurse practitioner or retail pharmacist, to temporarily leave their usual specialties in order to care for COVID-19 patients, if needed.
“So that we can move these people into these places where there’s the greatest need,” said Betsy Snook, CEO of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.
Healthcare systems in need of volunteers or additional healthcare providers will reach out to the public through the media and online.
“Some of it has already gone out through social media. And then the people can volunteer in that way,” Snook said. “They can just directly correspond with whoever’s asking for the assistance.”
The state also announced last week it was waiving licensing requirements for both in-state and out-of-state healthcare providers to treat patients via telemedicine.